The governor’s announcement to extend the 14-day quarantine to out-of-state travelers is a staggering blow to businesses. Especially those in Waikiki, where a spokesman says the losses so far, close to $6 billion since the lockdown.
Gov. David Ige extended the out-of-state quarantine to July 31. The president of the Waikiki Improvement Association says for retailers, restaurants, and hotels in that area, that extra month adds up to $1.6 billion in lost revenue from visitors.
“That translates to over $200 million in state taxes. Through the end of this month, June 30, we’ll have lost six billion dollars,” said Ricke Egged.
He adds that it’s important for the governor to set a date to open tourism because businesses will need time to prepare.
“We need about a month to get geared up, start to get bookings, to train the employees, cause there obviously has to be a new post COVID-19 protocol that has to be in place,” said Egged.
But part of the problem is the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations in several mainland states. Some experts say even if we test incoming travelers before they leave, allowing mainland travelers without quarantine could lead to a dangerous surge.
“Because of the sensitivity of the tests, the fact that it’s not detecting everybody, we would see an increase in the number of cases of active Covid infection coming into the islands if we open up to tourism from the mainland,” said Tim Brown, East-West Center Senior Fellow.
Lt. Gov. Josh Green is working on a plan to open tourism before the end of July by testing visitors before they leave. Brown says it would be safer to establish a travel bubble. And allow visitors from countries with low infection rates like South Korea and Australia.
“All of those have really done a good job of containing the epidemic. And if we open to those, yes it’s not the majority of our tourism. But at least it lets us get the tourism industry started again,” said Brown.
Egged would like Japan included in that bubble because it has a bigger share of the tourism market. But even then he says that will not be enough.
“It will obviously help as a short term boost and hopefully get us past the initial reopening. But it needs to be followed fairly quickly with a general reopening,” said Egged.